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Preview: Freedom to Tinker

Freedom to Tinker



Research and expert commentary on digital technologies in public life



Last Build Date: Tue, 20 Sep 2016 13:00:15 +0000

 



Which voting machines can be hacked through the Internet?

Tue, 20 Sep 2016 13:00:15 +0000

Over 9000 jurisdictions (counties and states) in the U.S. run elections with a variety of voting machines: optical scanners for paper ballots, and direct-recording “touchscreen” machines.  Which ones of them can be hacked to make them cheat, to transfer votes from one candidate to another? The answer:  all of them.  An attacker with physical access […]



Bitcoin’s history deserves to be better preserved

Thu, 15 Sep 2016 13:35:25 +0000

Much of Bitcoin’s development has happened in the open in a transparent manner through the mailing list and the bitcoin-dev IRC channel. The third-party website BitcoinStats maintains logs of the bitcoin-dev IRC chats. [1] This resource has proved useful is linked to by other sources such as the Bitcoin wiki. When reading a blog post […]



All the News That’s Fit to Change: Insights into a corpus of 2.5 million news headlines

Wed, 14 Sep 2016 13:52:13 +0000

[Thanks to Joel Reidenberg for encouraging this deeper dive into news headlines!] There is no guarantee that a news headline you see online today will not change tomorrow, or even in the next hour, or will even be the same headlines your neighbor sees right now. For a real-life example of the type of change […]



Improving Bitcoin’s Privacy and Scalability with TumbleBit

Tue, 13 Sep 2016 21:54:48 +0000

Last week we unveiled TumbleBit, a new anonymous payments scheme that addresses two major technical challenges faced by Bitcoin today: (1) scaling Bitcoin to meet increasing use, and (2) protecting the privacy of payments made via Bitcoin. Our proof-of-concept source code and a pre-print of the latest version of our paper were both posted online […]



Routing Detours: Can We Avoid Nation-State Surveillance?

Tue, 30 Aug 2016 22:44:37 +0000

Since 2013, Brazil has taken significant steps to build out their networking infrastructure to thwart nation-state mass surveillance.  For example, the country is deploying a 3,500-mile fiber cable from Fortaleza, Brazil to Portugal; they’ve switched their government email system from Microsoft Outlook to a state-built system called Expresso; and they now have the largest IXP […]



Differential Privacy is Vulnerable to Correlated Data — Introducing Dependent Differential Privacy

Fri, 26 Aug 2016 13:57:58 +0000

[This post is joint work with Princeton graduate student Changchang Liu and IBM researcher Supriyo Chakraborty. See our paper for full details. — Prateek Mittal ] The tussle between data utility and data privacy Information sharing is important for realizing the vision of a data-driven customization of our environment. Data that were earlier locked up […]



Language necessarily contains human biases, and so will machines trained on language corpora

Wed, 24 Aug 2016 20:32:53 +0000

I have a new draft paper with Aylin Caliskan-Islam and Joanna Bryson titled Semantics derived automatically from language corpora necessarily contain human biases. We show empirically that natural language necessarily contains human biases, and the paradigm of training machine learning on language corpora means that AI will inevitably imbibe these biases as well. Specifically, we look at […]



Security against Election Hacking – Part 2: Cyberoffense is not the best cyberdefense!

Thu, 18 Aug 2016 13:00:20 +0000

State and county election officials across the country employ thousands of computers in election administration, most of them are connected (from time to time) to the internet (or exchange data cartridges with machines that are connected).  In my previous post I explained how we must audit elections independently of the computers, so we can trust the […]



Security against Election Hacking – Part 1: Software Independence

Wed, 17 Aug 2016 13:27:57 +0000

There’s been a lot of discussion of whether the November 2016 U.S. election can be hacked.  Should the U.S. Government designate all the states’ and counties’ election computers as “critical cyber infrastructure” and prioritize the “cyberdefense” of these systems?  Will it make any difference to activate those buzzwords with less than 3 months until the […]



Can Facebook really make ads unblockable?

Thu, 11 Aug 2016 21:18:55 +0000

[This is a joint post with Grant Storey, a Princeton undergraduate who is working with me on a tool to help users understand Facebook’s targeted advertising.] Facebook announced two days ago that it would make its ads indistinguishable from regular posts, and hence impossible to block. But within hours, the developers of Adblock Plus released an […]